December 7, 2018

Superintendent’s Office


While the Board agenda is subject to change, we have tentatively scheduled the following items:

  • Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) - Staff will present the LCAP calendar and discuss the proposed approach to streamline the plan. A major goal for this year is to focus efforts on the students intended for supplemental dollars through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). As a reminder, the LCAP is a requirement to receive LCFF money.
  • School Calendar – The Board will consider approval of negotiated school calendars.
  • Let’s Talk! – PAUSD has launched a two-way communication tool to interact with all stakeholders. No solution is a replacement for face-to-face discussion. Absent the time and ability to hold such conversations, Let’s Talk! is the next evolution in electronic communication. 

Community and staff members can find Let’s Talk! on our website. The landing page contains a welcome message:

Do you need information about your child's school? Do you want to know more about state and District testing, or student safety programs? Do you have questions about District policy, the budgeting process, or the latest on school construction? Do you have an issue, concern or compliment you would like addressed?

Most often, you can get the information you are seeking by speaking with a staff member from a specific school or department. Once you click on a topic below and make a submission, the appropriate person or department will be notified. If you are unsure which topic to choose, click on General Inquiries & Comments at the bottom of the page and your submission will be routed for you. If you request a response, don't forget to share your contact information, including your email address. More information about this tool is available on our Frequently Asked Questions​ page.

To address all members of the Board of Education​, please email

Please note, Let’s Talk! should not replace face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations. If your message is urgent, please contact the Palo Alto Unified School District Offices at (650) 329-3700, or your child’s school directly. School contacts can be found on the schools page of our website.


Staff is working with me to create more routines and systems throughout our entire organization. This commitment includes our Board meetings. Mr. Kolar from our Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) Department and I are developing a “reports” calendar to get us in a predictable evaluation cycle. A review of past years (and months) shows that our reporting cycle is sporadic and somewhat random. The calendar will place reports in cycles allowing for formative and summative evaluations for the Board’s consideration.

We are going to pilot a couple of things at our next meeting in the area of general operations. We plan to move the timer used for public comment to our assistant’s table.  That may eliminate a distraction at the Board table. We are also looking at ways to make the submission and collection of speaker cards less distracting. It may take a few meetings, but we want everyone to have an opportunity to speak and be heard without unnecessary distractions.


Our Chief Business Officer, Dr. James Novak, and I will bring forward suggestions to improve the overall safety of our campuses. These recommendations will also address standard protocols for emergency situations. Some aspects of safety preparation will be part of our January Study Session, and will appear as part of my proposed goals for PAUSD.


We will ask the Board to select a date for a Study Session in January. During our first Study Session this year, I was directed to come back in January with some concepts and tools to guide our work in the future. I will be prepared to facilitate this meeting and provide proposals for major areas of our school district operations. As a general practice, the Board retreats to Closed Session after this meeting for the superintendent’s mid-year evaluation.


On December 6, the California Department of Education (CDE) announced the public release of the 2018 California School Dashboard (Dashboard). The Dashboard is available online and it includes the following new features: 

  • New look. A new, user-friendly look that makes complex data easier to understand and is mobile friendly. A fully translated Spanish version will be available in January 2019. 
  • Two new metrics. Schools, districts and county offices of education that serve K–8 students are being evaluated for the first time on school attendance via the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator. In addition, schools that serve grades 9–12 are being evaluated for the first time on the College/Career Readiness Indicator. 
  • Eleventh grade test scores. Schools, districts, and county offices of education that administer the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) in math and English language arts in 11thgrade are being evaluated for the first time with a red-through-blue color on the Academic Indicator. 
  • A new video. The California New Dashboard – Let the Conversation Begin is a two-minute video that explains why the Dashboard is the “ultimate conversation starter” and how it can lead to better planning and better results for our kids .

Education Services


The Family Engagement Specialist (FES) program is in its fourth year of implementation. Currently, the program funds an equivalent of three full-time specialists, one at each level: elementary, middle, and high school. The goal of the program is to build relationships with families, and to provide access to resources which they may not have accessibility due to language barriers, lack of technology, or other challenges.


The Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) and Elementary Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) teams released the Winter Edition of the EleMENTORy Project. New winter materials have been stocked on the Creativity Carts for teachers to use with their buddy classes.


This week, all 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers at El Carmelo, Nixon, and Palo Verde elementary schools were engaged in active learning with staff developers from The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Staffs at these three schools, as well as our fourth lab school, Barron Park, engage in a sequence of staff development days across the year. Training on these days include times when teachers are in classrooms observing a staff developer teaching a demonstration lesson. They then receive coaching from the staff developer. An example of what might be observed during a demonstration lesson is the flow of an entire workshop, highlighting ways to pace instruction, leaning on and adapting Units of Study, and teaching efficiently and responsively. Other times, demonstration teaching spotlights particular methods of teaching – perhaps showing participating teachers ways to use learning progressions to give concrete and clear feedback, or ways to lead small groups in which students are the ones doing the most work. It is always a great few days, working hard together and learning new strategies to improve teaching and learning.


The IRB met for its second round of reviews on December 4, focusing on student research projects from the AAR program. Over 30 student proposals involving human subjects were reviewed by the committee consisting of teachers, site, and District administrators, and an external IRB reviewer from Stanford. The committee helps student researchers conduct their research in a safe and ethical manner. All student researchers who submitted to the IRB will receive their results within the next few days, after which they can begin their data collection. Students’ final projects will be presented at the Celebratory Showcase in May.


At this time each year, elementary schools finalize SPSA plans for the 2018-19 school year with their School Site Councils. This year, elementary schools will be extending last year’s plan by updating the progress on last year’s goals and adjusting those goals to extend through this school year. Moving forward, elementary schools will change their SPSA timeline to match the timeline at the secondary schools, and write plans for the 2019-20 school year this spring. This will allow sites to begin progress on goals from day one of the school year.   


During the PLC meeting, elementary principals continued the process of compiling data from the cohort class of 2029’s first two years in PAUSD. At the next meeting in January, the group will meet to discuss the trends noted in this data, and its implications for implementing the best strategies for supporting student growth toward achieving benchmark. One slice of data I can share is that the class of 2029, Cohort 1, entered 2nd grade (2018-19) with 78% of students at or above benchmark. The previous 2nd grade class, Cohort 0, entered second grade (2017-18) with 64% of the students at or above benchmark.


The stakeholder advisory committee met for an all-day session on November 15 to screen the recently approved science instructional materials. They narrowed the large field to five publishers (McGraw-Hill, Amplify, Teachers Curriculum Institute, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson) to invite for a more in-depth presentation. On November 29 and December 6, they heard presentations and further explored curriculum from each program. These meetings were open to the public, and more information can be found on the committee website.


On November 16, the Secondary Mathematics Instructional Leaders attended a full-day retreat to discuss interventions and extensions for all PAUSD secondary math students. In the morning, Response to Intervention (RtI) programs for struggling students in 6th–12th grades were presented by selected vendors and considered for piloting. Additionally, ideas that resulted from the Santa Clara County Office of Education Math 6 Differentiation workshop for all 6th grade teachers earlier this month were reviewed and discussed. Extension materials were identified for the middle school sites. In the afternoon, pros and cons of a variety of organizations of curriculum for 6th–12th grades were discussed at length. Elements of the thoughtful multi-layered conversation included the impact on the whole child, parent wishes, and student efficacy in building their life path.


Tammy Juarez, Secondary Science TOSA, presented the results of a collaboration between PAUSD middle science teachers and researcher Engin Bumbacher from Stanford’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab. Teachers from around the state met in Pasadena for the annual California Science Teacher Association (CSTA) to share best practices for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). High school and middle school life science teachers participated in the seminar to use the new web-based platform for a Cells Unit that incorporates multiple science and engineering practices and the crosscutting concept of Systems and System Models. This new educational tool went through a field test at J.L. Stanford Middle School and should be ready for wide scale use in the coming months.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


As a follow-up to the Behavioral Support Training conducted in August, the Division of Special Education provided the second part of the training series on December 5. The focus of the training was on the importance of documenting behavior incidents that occur while students are in transport. Guidance and strategies were provided to the bus drivers on how to support children within the Autism Spectrum. Expectations on confidentiality was reviewed and reiterated relative to student records and anecdotal reports as part of compliance procedures. The 13 eligibility criteria for special education services as mandated by federal standards were defined and explained to ensure calibrated understanding of student needs. The Special Education Access and Mobility Training series was designed to promote a more efficient and coordinated approach in serving students with Individualized Education Programs. 


On November 28, three members of the Special Education Council joined the Walter Hays Team in determining solutions to identified concerns relative to behavioral challenges, processes, and support systems. A Special Education Coordinator, Special Education Program Specialist, and Interim Behavioral Support Manager facilitated the discussion towards a shared understanding of behavioral needs and the corresponding strategies, as well as available support systems to address the needs. Both teams understood each other’s perspectives and developed a communication plan for continued collaboration. The Walter Hays staff expressed their appreciation of the Special Education Team’s flexibility in designing a professional development session tailored to their site’s needs. The collaborative experience is certainly a value-added experience for the Special Education Council. We continue to encourage school staff to reach out to your Special Education Coordinators and Program Specialists on specific topics of interest at your respective sites.

Business Services


Barron Park highlighted the concepts of reuse and recycle at its first annual Trashion Show! The event was organized by Heather Cleland in the Barron Park Maker Studio. Not only was it an opportunity to recycle and think about helping our planet, but it was also an opportunity to be creators. Students had to figure out what skills they needed to design and build their creations, and how to get those skills. They had to observe, do research, and break things down. And it took time and lots of effort and planning. Making for the Trashion Show encompassed all of these things – and we couldn’t be prouder of our students!

Technology Department


Our Let's Talk! platform launched started a few weeks ago with requests for input on the budget process. We expanded last Friday with the addition of the general feedback categories. On Monday, we went bigger by announcing the platform to all parents with an email blast. As expected with an announcement, the activity has increased this week, as have the internal conversations about how to use the platform, communication etiquette, and expectations around responding to messages. Communicating and messaging to our community is not new for us; however, the change from email to a more coherent system has created an opportunity for us to discuss and calibrate our individual communication styles to ensure we are producing consistent responses to similar questions that may be asked in different ways. Answers to some frequently asked questions are posted on our website and more details on the reporting tools will be provided in a report at the December 18 Regular Board Meeting.

Human Resources


In light of the rescission of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and 2014 Questions & Answers guidance, the District’s Title IX Office confirmed that the existing Resolution Agreement between PAUSD and OCR is still binding. Schools enter into voluntary resolution agreements with OCR to address deficiencies and violations identified during an OCR investigation based on Title IX and its implementing regulations. Existing resolution agreements remain binding upon the school that voluntarily entered into them. Such agreements are fact-specific and do not bind other schools. If a school has questions about an existing resolution agreement, the school may contact the appropriate OCR regional office responsible for the monitoring of its agreement. OCR’s September 2017 Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct can be found online.


The calendars for the 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 school years are currently in the ratification process and anticipated to be included for approval on the December 18 Regular Board Meeting agenda. Calendar dates remain largely consistent between 2018-19 and 2019-20. August 13, 2019 is the tentative start date for grades 6-12; August 14 for grades K-5. Once approved, the calendars for the next three school years will be posted on our website.


The Human Resources Team is continually reviewing and refining processes. One process piece that we have noted is in relation to hourly employees. Those names had previously been placed on the Board Agenda after activation of employment by submission of time cards. This has resulted in names showing on the Board Agenda with effective dates that are backdated. 

This process is being improved in the following manner: upon completion of application for employment, hourly employees’ names will be placed on the Board Agenda at the next regularly scheduled Board Meeting. A small number of these individuals will not end up working for the District, due to the fact that program needs may change and/or an individual’s availability could change. The new process establishes the goal that Board approval is obtained for hourly workers before any actual work is commenced, or within a reasonable time period after initiation of services.